Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Call Me Irresistible

Call Me IrresistibleCall Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I left this book unfinished thirty five pages into it. I have really mixed feelings about giving up on this book. I wanted to like it because I've heard great things about this author, but this book was really... unrealistic. And confusing. Too many references to details that were never explained (I have a feeling it's a series book and I jumped in the middle) it seemed designed to be a character reunion. The author never seemed to settle on a set POV as it wandered around from a poorly written third person and flashing between different character perspectives. I don't mind if this is done well - like with chapter or sectional breaks, but when it happens three times in the space of four paragraphs, I have a hard time. The characters were okay, way too fake and extremely stereotypical. Maybe my expectations were just too high.

Synopsis: R.S.V.P. to the most riotous wedding of the year!
Lucy Jorik’s the daughter of a former U.S. president.
Meg Koranda’s the offspring of legends.
One of them is about to marry Mr. Irresistible—Ted Beaudine—the favorite son of Wynette, Texas.
The other is determined to save her friend from a mess of heartache.
Meg knows breaking up her best friend’s wedding is the right thing to do, but no one else agrees. Faster than Lucy can say “I don’t,” Meg’s the most hated woman in town—and stuck there with a dead car, an empty wallet, and a very angry bridegroom. Broke, stranded, without her famous parents watching her back, Meg believes she can survive by her own wits. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? She’ll lose her heart to Mr. Irresistible?
Not likely. Not likely at all.

Best of Friends

Best of FriendsBest of Friends by Cathy Kelly

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I gave up on this book sixteen pages in. It was clunky and dull. An obvious introduction to a long cast of characters. It's hard to pin down exactly WHAT I don't like about the book, but as soon as I started reading it I knew it wasn't my kind of book.

Synopsis: Abby Barton's TV career is taking off and now she and her husband can have the life they've always dreamed of in a lovely Irish town — at least, in theory! But when your husband takes you for granted and your teenage daughter hates you, an adoring old flame can spell danger to your seemingly perfect life. Fortunately, Abby has her friends to keep her sane. For starters, her best friend, Sally, owns a beauty salon, and Sally and her husband throw fantastic parties, where there are still more friends to be made.

Sally's friend Lizzie makes time for everybody: her gal pals, her grown children, even her ex-husband. But when her ex finds someone new, Lizzie can't help but wonder if she'll ever love again. The women are all thrilled to meet Erin, who has moved home to Ireland from Chicago for her husband's new job. But is she cut out for small-town life, and what of the family she left behind years ago? Together and on their own, these four women are about to face highs and lows they never anticipated. Only from each other can they learn that life is for the living and that they need to grab it with both hands....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ape House

Ape HouseApe House by Sara Gruen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was not what I expected. It started out like it was going to be a very serious pro-animal, scientific rant. No, really, that's what I thought it was going to be - for about the first four pages. There was humor, lots of humor, there were bombs and strippers and a meth-lab dog and monkey sex - I mean apes. This was a great, fast-paced story. As always, I loved the author's writing. It was so easy to fall into the story. She made even the most ridiculous series of events seem so realistic that I found myself thinking "yeah. Yeah, that could totally happen." In some ways the way the plot unfolded and interconnected reminded me a lot of the early days of the Stephanie Plum series. (That's meant to be a compliment.) I really enjoyed the alternating POV's - from a journalist, the apes' caretaker and occasionally the apes themselves.

Synopsis: Sam, Bonzi, Lola, Mbongo, Jelani, and Makena are no ordinary apes. These bonobos, like others of their species, are capable of reason and carrying on deep relationships—but unlike most bonobos, they also know American Sign Language.

Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab, doesn’t understand people, but animals she gets—especially the bonobos. Isabel feels more comfortable in their world than she’s ever felt among humans . . . until she meets John Thigpen, a very married reporter who braves the ever-present animal rights protesters outside the lab to see what’s really going on inside.

When an explosion rocks the lab, severely injuring Isabel and “liberating” the apes, John’s human interest piece turns into the story of a lifetime, one he’ll risk his career and his marriage to follow. Then a reality TV show featuring the missing apes debuts under mysterious circumstances, and it immediately becomes the biggest—and unlikeliest—phenomenon in the history of modern media. Millions of fans are glued to their screens watching the apes order greasy take-out, have generous amounts of sex, and sign for Isabel to come get them. Now, to save her family of apes from this parody of human life, Isabel must connect with her own kind, including John, a green-haired vegan, and a retired porn star with her own agenda.

Recommended Reading:
The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass
Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lord John and Hand of Devils

Lord John and the Hand of DevilsLord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an enjoyable collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors. It still amazes me the way the DG takes intricate details, multiple plot lines and perfectly flawed characters and weaves them into stories that are easy to fall into, get lost in and come up gasping for air at the end. I was wondering if she could really do it in short story format, and was honestly surprised at how true she remained to all of the things that I adore about her writing. I don't think she short changed her readers or her characters at all. If anything, it makes me want Lord John stories.

Synopsis: A keepsake collection of Lord John Grey’s shorter adventures and a spectacular addition to any Gabaldon fan’s library, Lord John and the Hand of Devils brings three unique novellas together for the first time.

Lord John and the Hellfire Club marks the first appearance of Lord John outside the Outlander novels. A young diplomat who had begged for Lord John’s help is killed before he can explain his need. Witnessing the murder, Grey vows to avenge the young man, as the trail leads to the notorious Hellfire Club and the dark caves beneath Medmenham Abbey.

In Lord John and the Succubus, Grey’s assignment as liaison to a Hanoverian regiment in Germany finds him caught between two threats: the advancing French and Austrian army, and the menace of a mysterious “night-hag,” who spreads fear and death among the troops.

Finally, in Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, Lord John is called to the Arsenal at Woolwich to answer a Royal Commission of Enquiry’s questions regarding a cannon that exploded during the battle of Krefeld. Accusations ensue, and Lord John finds himself knee-deep in a morass of gunpowder, treason, and plot–haunted by a dead lieutenant, and followed by a man with no face.

Recommended Reading:
Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon
Echoes by Danielle Steel
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Dead Heat by Dick Francis

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Help

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book so much, I don't even know where to start. I was hooked from page one. I couldn't read enough, fast enough - and yet I didn't want it to end. The story is told by three characters, all in first person. Normally I don't like books with multiple point of views because there is overlapping repetition, but the author managed to avoid this completely. The voices were very clear and well sectioned. The book covers quite a bit of time, about two years, in the early 60's. I found the references to historical fact added so much to the story - the fashion, JFK's and Medgar Evers assassinations, Martin Luther King Jr., the establishment of zip codes, color TV's, TV remotes, there were so many little details in this book to place the reader inside the story. The characters were wonderful, I felt for them - I was connected. I laughed and cried through this book. This book opened up my eyes to how far we've come in half a century. I didn't even realize there were rules for blacks, other than just the segregation. I didn't know that many people believed blacks were dirty and diseased and stupid. There's so much more I want to say, but I don't want to spoil it. You HAVE to read this book.

Synopsis: Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

Recommended Reading:
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Committed: A Love Story

Committed: A Love StoryCommitted: A Love Story by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I hadn't planned to read this book because of my feelings for EPL. A friend sent it to me with a note that she thought I would enjoy it more than EPL. She was right, at least in the fact that I did not throw the book across the room as I did with EPL - several times. The book started out good, really really good. There was story, dialogue, action, feeling, it was good! And then, things became weird.

The book became this long, opinionated self-help book. EG takes us through an education on the state of marriage, such as it is in modern times, and a (so-called) history of marriage. I almost put the book down when I read her out of context translation of what the bible says of marriage. She also discusses subjects such as marriage and children, marriage and working, marriage and passion, and the marriage ceremony itself. A variety of interesting topics, certainly, but missing one necessary thing: A story. I wanted a story (in fact the title advertises the book as "A Love Story"). There were lots of little stories of other things wrapped up in all the lunatic ranting, but there was no real story of Liz and Felipe.

So, what kept me reading this non-story? Mostly her writing. She writes in such a clear voice, at times it was like sitting down for coffee with a good friend. Also, as a marriage skeptic myself, I heard a lot of things that I believed long ago to be true. Things that resonated with me on a "How can I be true to me but still fulfill my societal obligation" level.

Synopsis: At the end of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Indonesia. The couple swore eternal love, but also swore (as skittish divorce survivors) to never marry. However, when Felipe was unexpectedly kicked out of the United States by U.S. Immigration officials, the couple was faced with a strict ultimatum: get married or Felipe could never enter America again. Over the next ten months, as Elizabeth and Felipe wandered Southeast Asia waiting for permission to return home and wed, the author searched far and wide for wisom, advice, and perspective on the subject of romantic commitment.

Recommended Reading:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Un Amico, Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome by Luca Spaghetti
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

Thursday, September 8, 2011

White Chocolate Berry Dessert

There are no pictures. Long story short, my camera took an unplanned swim this summer and has not yet been replaced. I will be updating the posts with pictures, as well as posting about my new-to-me kitchen, hopefully in the next few weeks. SOON! In the meantime, take my word for it, this cake is pretty and delicious!

My aunt gave me this recipe after she made it for her daughter's bridal shower. I've put the recipe here as she sent it to me, but note that I did make a few changes which didn't affect the cake at all. First of all, white chocolate is only available in 6 oz. boxes (or at least the stores that I shop), so I always buy two boxes and cut 1 oz. of chocolate from each layer. The other change that I often make is that if strawberries are not in season (read: expensive as hell) I use sliced frozen strawberries. I simply thaw them completely in the fridge, dump the container in a strainer to remove as much liquid as possible (I don't rinse) and follow the recipe instructions. This cake is perfect for entertaining because you can bake the cake the day before and add the topping the day of your party.

Bottom Layer:
8 squares (1 oz. each) white baking chocolate
6 tbsp butter, cubed
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate and butter at 70% power. Stir until smooth. Cool. In mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until lemon-colored. Beat in melted chocolate mixture and vanilla. Combine flour and salt; beat into egg mixture. Spread in greased 12x9x2 inch baking dish; set aside.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 squares (1 oz. each) white baking cocolate, melted and cooled
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and white chocolate. Beat in the egg, sugar, sour cream and vanilla until combined. Carefully spread over bottom layer. Cut through filling and bottom layer with a knife to swirl. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Topping:
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
4 squares (1 oz. each) white baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced

Before serving, fold Cool Whip into white chocolate. Fold in strawberries. Spread over dessert.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thr3e

Thr3eThr3e by Ted Dekker

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I'm struggling writing this book review. I'm struggling with my decision to not finish the book. I wanted so badly to love this book - to even LIKE it, but it failed me. Or I failed it. I'm not sure. The book starts out with a brief and shallow discussion on the nature of evil in mankind. I think this was meant to be a foreshadowing device, but there was nothing profound in the discussion so nothing resonated or stuck with me. Right away we're thrown into some action by immediately being introduced to the bad guy and his twisted little game. The author won points for not wasting time with that. My problem is with all the things the author did waste time with. Analyzing and detailing every.little.thought, motivation and response of each character. The language used in the book... I appreciate the author's attempt to avoid over using profanity, disturbing imagery or sex, but there were a few cases where the absence of it was completely out of character. And speaking of characters, the main character is a seminary student - and he doesn't once pray to God. It was like ... I don't know. The character occupation note was to give him some kind of innocence or good, but the author didn't back it up. I did skip to the end and read the last two chapters just to see how the book played out. I was quite disappointed. I've seen this plot before, it's a movie called Fight Club - watch it and save yourself some time by not picking up this book.



View all my reviews